As in any story, the most exciting part is the introductions, and its conclusions. In a story, as most anime’s really are, that intro phase is important. You have to introduce your characters and make your audience want to know them better. In the conclusion, you strive to bring these characters to their rightful end. But what about the middle? It is an opportunity to make quests into character building scenarios, explore the universe around the main characters, or some sort of frivolous escapade. Its a chance for most anime to further immerse the audience into the world the writer has created. Unfortunately, most shows fail at this opportunity through mindless fan service or ridiculous scenarios. But what scenarios constitute a success or failure? Lets look at 4 examples.
Success: Exploring the other aspects of the main character
In most shows, these episodes take time to explore other aspects of the main character. They can test his personality or resolve, put them in unfamiliar situations, or show a side the audience has not seen yet. They key is to spend some helping us the viewer become better acquainted with them. If you want your audience to become connected with your story, then you have to let them in. But there is a catch. The main character needs to experience growth or change, or this little side quest is for naught.
Failure: Exploring the the life of a minor character
A minor character serves as a tool to help change occur in the main character. Spending time to develop details and back story on a minor side character never really adds up to anything. Sure, you get to see s different side to the minor character, and maybe see more of what’s going on. And this may result in a few laughs. But in the end, you’ve learned something about a character you have no vested emotional interest in, and you wonder why you watched it in the first place.
Success: Tragic romance
Romance can be a great way to expand on a characters personality. The relationship between men and women can show a very different side to a character. And a tragic romance can do that even more. Everyone loves a tragic romance, especially if that romance is born from simple innocence. Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, mutual affection ensues. Then tragedy strikes. The boy unknowingly kills girl and wonders why she doesn’t show up to the next date. Those heart tugging moments can be great when exploring the softer side of our main characters.
Failure: Hot Springs or Beach Trips
Lets face it. Its cliché and pointless fan service to have a beach or hot springs episode. These scenarios have been played out over and over, with a reoccurring plot and setting. These kind of episodes cater to those looking for scantily clad, typically ‘underage’, female characters. There is probably a point where a swimsuit falls off, or a character walks in on another while they are barely dressed. Dumb. My ‘suspension of disbelief’ only goes so far, these kinds of episodes are outside that boundary. In the end, nothing is really accomplished and the plot and characters are right back where they started.